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Media Relations Tips


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A primer on media relations

Published in: Business

Media Relations Tips

  1. 1. Compiled by Prof. Mark Grabowski
  2. 2. • Our PR textbook author isn’t alone is distrusting the media. • A recent study found that only 10 percent of Americans thought the media covered the election accurately.
  3. 3. Lack of trust, hurt by election Only 32% of public trust media to report accurately and fairly, a September Gallup poll found. Pollsters blame "lower standards for journalism" in presidential campaign coverage for "corroding Americans' trust and confidence.”
  4. 4. Confusion over who’s a journalist
  5. 5. They’re not always perfect…
  6. 6. • Some media members are known for taking hard-line positions on issues • There’s an increasing blurring of fact and opinion • Many audiences can’t tell the difference between fact and opinion
  7. 7. Contrary to what our textbook author implies, journalists take objectivity very seriously, perhaps to the point of being hypersensitive about it.
  8. 8. At end of day, good journalists, like good PR people, want to get information out, and do it in an honest way. And most journalists are ethical … Of course, mistakes happen. Journalism is the first rough draft of history.
  9. 9. In the build-up to the last Presidential primary elections, the editor of the Denver newspaper ordered his newsroom's reporters not to participate in the Colorado caucuses. (Unlike primaries, in caucuses there are not secret ballots and people must declare their preference publicly.)
  10. 10. • "Because caucuses are party activities that involve expressing your political position in public, you should not attend them, unless you’re covering them for the Rocky,” the editor explained. (However, he later reversed his recommendation.) • Relatedly, the San Francisco Chronicle barred reporters from participating in the recent Women’s March.
  11. 11. A lot of the biased and negativity in journalism that our author complains about originates from PR flacks. “It is impossible in this day and age for anybody to speak his mind plainly and not be ripped to shreds by some PR machine on the other side.” - veteran TV journalist Ted Koppel
  12. 12. There’s a reason why SNL mocks PR people
  13. 13. • Journalism tends to be negative. • A plane landing safely isn’t news. That’s what’s supposed to happen. It’s only news if it crashes.
  14. 14. Daily stories about ISIS and terrorism remind us about how cruel and awful the world can be…
  15. 15. And your challenge is to get press coverage for the good news about your company. And that’s what you need to focus on in terms of media relations.
  16. 16. • This is how your job performance will largely be measured. • Most executives, CEO types view PR as getting publicity and press coverage. • no PR effort produces more tangible results than a mention in the press.
  17. 17. IT’S AN ENDORSEMENT: Getting media coverage really helps with credibility because the (earned) media didn’t have to report on you. Plus, it’s free. Advertising (paid media) costs money and is often ignored.
  18. 18. • In 2008 – for the first time ever – the Internet became the primary source of Americans. • 48 percent said they got their news from the Internet – more than the traditional media (newspapers, TV and radio), according to a poll by Zogby. • By 2009, 56 percent were getting news online.
  19. 19. Traditional media is down… circulation us way down and staffs have been cut. • Over past 25 years, network news has lost more than 50 percent of its viewers, despite growing population. news also declining due to popularity of podcasts and online music streaming.
  20. 20. But still very important for PR… •100 million Americans still read a newspaper on an average weekday, and 150 million do on Sundays. Many newspapers are reaching larger audiences than ever before thanks to their websites. • Some broadcast journalists have a lot of reach. Rush Limbaugh, for example, has 15 million listeners. NBC Evening News attracts 10 million views nightly. That’s more people than any newspaper or blogger gets per day. • Most news and original reporting still originates from traditional media: newspapers (61%), TV and radio.
  21. 21. • They set the agenda for all forms of journalism, whether it’s TV, radio or internet sites. • So, if you get coverage in the print media, there’s a good chance it will trickle down to other media as well.
  22. 22. • It’s also a lot easier to get print media coverage than it is to get coverage in other media. TV and radio have a lot less “space” for news coverage. • So, print media is usually the place to start with media coverage. Even though newspaper and magazine readership isn’t what it used to be, it’s still a force.
  23. 23. • Newspapers • Magazines • Radio shows • TV Network News • News websites • Blogs
  24. 24. Every day, journalists post queries on these websites, seeking people to provide quotes for stories… • ProfNet (expensive) • Help A Reporter (free)
  25. 25. Journalists are skeptical of PR • Sleazy: Over 64 percent of journalists believe that public relations people try to spin stories too often. • Dumb: 50 percent of journalists believe that PR people are not sufficiently aware of which media outlets they are pitching nor the beat of the journalist they are pitching.
  26. 26. … But try not to be skeptical of journalists • Reporters have a different job than you do. Their job is to write a story, not your story. • The more often you work with them, the more likely they are to get it right.
  27. 27. Know what’s news • Before you pitch a story idea or write a press release, answer this question: Why should the reporter care? Would you really want to read what you are offering? Be honest! • Moving to new offices or hiring a new vice president is not news no more than flossing your teeth is news. How many times does a newspaper devote more than a paragraph to one of these earth-shattering events?
  28. 28. Keep in mind, unless you work for a national organization or company or your organization does something that the whole world will want to know about (like creating a new form of energy), you probably won’t have much success with pitching to the national media. In most cases, it will just be a waste of time and energy.
  29. 29. E-mail, don’t call journalists Journalists’ first choice for being contacted is via e-mail – in fact, 78 percent of journalists reported that their preference was to receive news releases via e- mail. Same goes for pitching stories – send an e-mail. Only call a journalist when you have a pre-existing relationship.
  30. 30. Top 10 Reasons Journalists Say They Hate PR People #3: When sending pictures to be included with a press release, actually ADD the pictures or provide a website to go get them. Don’t just say “here they are!” and forget to even include them!
  31. 31. Top 10 Reasons Journalists Say They Hate PR People #4: PRPs that follow up on emailed news releases. It is especially annoying when a PR says "I was wondering if you had the chance to read this material.”
  32. 32. Relatedly, consider Twitter • Twitter has become of many journalists’ job descriptions these days. If you see that a journalist actively uses twitter and responds to tweets, consider that route for getting in touch. • In 2013 there were nearly 60% of journalists on Twitter. And it is their preferred social media channel by far to be contacted by PR professionals, 85% of them considering being approached for PR purposes welcome on Twitter.
  33. 33. But don’t spam journalists Nothing angers journalists (and bloggers) more than spam. Instead: 1. Research who covers your industry and create media list. 1. Send targeted emails, not blanket emails to a long list of reporters.
  34. 34. • Build a media list. Focus on local/community coverage. By community, I don’t just mean geographic, but also topical. Determine which media outlets cover the town you’re located in and your industry. Find out who are the reporters who cover your industry and the town you’re located in.
  35. 35. • Long Island media outlets such as Newsday would be interested in Adelphi U. – so find out who covers Garden City and who covers higher ed. Trade publications that cover higher education would also be interested. • There are also reporters and media outlets who will be interested in specific areas of the school. Sports reporters may be interested in our teams. Magazines like Psychology Today may care about our psychology dept.’s research. • When you think about all of your organization’s people and work, you may have dozens or even hundreds of media possibilities.
  36. 36. • Don’t assume that because a reporter wrote one story on a topic that’s his “beat”. • If the reporter says she’s not interested or it isn’t a good fit, ask who might be a better person to contact. • Getting to know editors and news directors can also help. Reporters aren’t always the final decision maker on what they can cover.
  37. 37. • The Delphian (Adelphi) • AU Magazine (Adelphi) • PAWS (Adelphi) • Newsday • Garden City Life • Garden City News • Garden City Patch • Long Island Press • Long Island Pulse • News 12 • PATV Long Island • WALK 97.5 • WHPC 90.3 FM (SUNY) • WLIR 92.7 FM • • Various blogs
  38. 38. Top 10 Reasons Journalists Say They Hate PR People #6: A PRP just looks stupid when they don’t do their research. Don’t just assume. Journalists will either be annoyed or laugh, neither of which is good.
  39. 39. Top 10 Reasons Journalists Say They Hate PR People #7: There are too many Public Relations practitioners who send the same type of Press Releases with the same boring themes.
  40. 40. • Your pitches need to be targeted to the right journalists and emphasize information that will appeal to that journalist’s audience.
  41. 41. Top 10 Reasons Journalists Say They Hate PR People #8: Public Relations practitioners pitch stories that are not relevant to their client or to the issues in print currently. Ask the questions “Is this the right story?” “Is this relevant?” before you pitch it.
  42. 42. Return reporters’ calls pronto • We live in a 24-7 news cycle, where stories develop instantly whether you’re ready or not. Reporters are like stray cats – if you don't feed them, they go to someone else's door. Call them back first, even if it is to say that you don’t have any info to help them. Reporters remember who calls them and who doesn't.
  43. 43. Top 10 Reasons Journalists Say They Hate PR People #1: Public Relations professionals seem to have an inability to understand that a “deadline” cannot be missed when dealing with a newspaper.
  44. 44. Never say “No comment” • It’s OK if you don’t have an immediate answer. • But never outright refuse to answer a question. • Ignoring a journalists’ call won’t work either. The story won’t go away; it will likely get worse. • People will assume you’re hiding something. • Void of info might be filled by your critics.
  45. 45. Make reporter’s job easier • Reporters work with the PR people who make writing a story easy with great sources, information and detail. So, do the work for the reporters. Have resources, images, bios, spokespeople, and/or links available.
  46. 46. Top 10 Reasons Journalists Say They Hate PR People #2: PRPs that send poorly written, almost-illiterate press releases, with such scanty details that a journalist is forced to go to the company's website to try and get the information needed.
  47. 47. Top 10 Reasons Journalists Say They Hate PR People #9: Public Relations Practitioners do not listen to journalists when they tell them the information they need for a story. Follow through with information for the journalist if asked, do not make promises you cannot keep.
  48. 48. • You need to prepare. • Keep in mind that not everything you say will be used. Only a fraction. • Be honest. Your reputation is most important asset. • Watch out for the long pauses.
  49. 49. • Don’t assume they’re out to get you. • But remember there is no “off the record.” Even a side comment made to someone else and overheard by a reporter could be considered fair game • Don’t get in arguments with journalists or make enemies with them – you can’t win those battles. Because the media controls its own editorial content, they can make you look really bad, if they want to.
  50. 50. • It’s totally fine to report mistakes. But make sure it’s an actual factual mistake and not a disagreement of semantics or opinion. Remember, it’s their story, not your story. • Parking meter story example.
  51. 51. Top 10 Reasons Journalists Say They Hate PR People #5: Journalists especially hate it when a PR tries to tell them how to do their job.
  52. 52. Don’t try to bribe or buy a journalist. But you can definitely use flattery. So it’s fine to shoot an email saying nice job.
  53. 53. Reasons Journalists Say They Hate PR People #10: Bribery doesn’t make a journalist like you anymore than they did before; it just makes you waste more money!
  54. 54. • Remember: Use e-mail • The most important part of the pitch is the subject heading • Need to make most impact in fewest words • Competing with spam • Use sexy and concise language in subject heading
  55. 55. • BAD: “New storage bin by closets & more helps college students stay organized this Fall” • GOOD: “New storage bin cuts down dorm room clutter” • BAD: “How fresh fruit and other simple tips can help young kid stay healthy” • GOOD: 10 tips to help keep kids healthy
  56. 56. • In writing a good subject head, the key is to find a balance between playing it straight, using humor or shock value. • Consider the following examples…
  57. 57. • “Party like it’s 4701” (for airfare sale to Asia, by student travel company) Result: Atlanta Journal-Constitution coverage
  58. 58. • “Laps with Led Zeppelin” (for snorkel with attached radio) Result: Dallas Morning News, Wash. Post coverage
  59. 59. • “Do cats need e-mail accounts?” (for cat owners’ Web site) Results: MSNBC, Wall St. Journal, USA Today
  60. 60. • “Another annoying COMDEX request” (for technology company trying to set up meetings at big trade show) Result: Tech execs totally booked for show
  61. 61. • “Not-so-hot story idea” (pitch for an infrared sauna that was cooler than standard saunas) Result: New York Post coverage
  62. 62. • “Texas Sodomy Imminent” (for PFLAG, highlighting end of TX sodomy laws) Result: Wall St. Journal, N.Y. Times, AP
  63. 63. • “This month’s pin-ups” (for “pinning” ceremony held at nursing school) Result: NYC regional media coverage
  64. 64. • “How many students does it take to change a light bulb?” (pitch for American U. programs to teach basics of home repair to students) • “Would you like to replace your ex-husband with a plant?” (pitch for photographer who digitally restores old photos)
  65. 65. • “Stevie Wonder, Dick Cheney and a Volvo” (for Inventors’ Hall of Fame) Results: L.A. Times, AP, SF Chronicle
  66. 66. • “47% think it’s OK to use cell phone in bathroom” (for Sprint PCS survey on cell-phone etiquette) Result: Several radio placements
  67. 67. • Keep the email copy as concise as possible • The first sentence should be a strong lead and describe your story angle or interesting aspects about your company/organization • Bulleted lists are easy for reporters to read quickly • Include a call to action: Contact you for more information, Visit Web site, Request a site tour, etc. • Ensure your contact information is included
  68. 68. • We’ll cover this in depth in the near future. Remember, at that time, your topic is due. You should type up a brief statement on what you plan to do your press release about and hand it in at the beginning of class. If you’re absent, it must be e-mailed to before the start of class.
  69. 69. • Newsrooms have spam filters, but reporters don’t know how to use them • Innocent words can trip filters: “free,” “money,” “check,” “cash” • Action verbs, like “buy,” “save,” and “get” cause problems • List of “trigger” words at: _phrases.htm
  70. 70. • Long subject lines • Long text • Including multiple reporters on the same email • Attachments • Flagging an email pitch as high priority
  71. 71. • Typos • Spelling a reporter’s name incorrectly • Incorrect information
  72. 72. When dealing with the broadcast media, some things are the same as when dealing with print media but some are different…
  73. 73. • Be brief. TV and radio have no time for beating around the bush. Begin answers by summarizing main points. Don’t use jargon that no one will understand. Speak in very simple terms.
  74. 74. • Keep yourself cool and calm. Emotions are magnified on the radio – people can here nervousness in your voice – and especially on TV. Things like body language and your tone of voice can be even more revealing than the actual words you say.
  75. 75. • Be careful with humor. If it’s funny, then it can work really well. But it’s risky and may not carry over well. • Consider: – George Allen’s “macaca” joke – President Obama’s “best-looking attorney general” comment – James Franco’s rape and gay jokes
  76. 76. • If you’re on radio, you need to sound enthusiastic. Since there are no visuals, the vocal exuberance of the spokesperson is key.
  77. 77. • Remember also, it’s a lot harder to get coverage in the broadcast media. They have very limited air time. While some stories are better told through broadcast, many are too complicated or boring to be covered. So, there’s also that additional challenge. Your story has to be visually appearing or sound good.
  78. 78. • That’s because there are more major networks now. TV used to be the equivalent of only having the USA Today, New York Times and Washington Post as your options for newspapers. Technology has changed that.
  79. 79. With the growth of cable TV has also come lots of specialized television stations and news programs: BUSINESS: CNBC, CNNFN, Bloomberg, FOX Business, Sky News Business, etc. SPORTS: ESPN, Comcast Sports Network, Fox Sports, MSG Varsity, etc. SPANISH MEDIA: Univision, Telemundo, ESPN Desportes, Azteca, MundoMax, etc.
  80. 80. • So, just as you would target press releases to certain newspaper sections or trade magazines or specialty publications, you can do that with TV now too. • Radio is booming, too. In fact, that’s a better bet for coverage. There are more than 13,000 radio stations in America, but less than 2,000 TV stations.
  81. 81. Create your own(ed) media coverage. Become a citizen journalist yourself: –Press releases –VNRs –Social media –Websites –Op-eds/letter to editor –Newsletters
  82. 82. • Many organizations are creating their own media brands. • See, e.g.: – COKE: – LOCAL HOSPITAL: onhealth – ADELPHI: this-fuss-about-the-oscars/
  83. 83. When I worked in PR, I had editors say to me, "We'd love to do an article -- if you write it up." I even had one journalist put his byline on a a story I wrote. As a journalism professor, this alarms me. But as a PR practitioner, I was happy to get the coverage and to be able to control the message.
  84. 84. Read the textbook….
  85. 85. • Professional Marketing Journal • Bulldog Reporter • Levick Strategic Communications • TEKgroup International • Fraser Seitel’s The Practice of Public Relations • Off Madison Ave strategtic communications agency • Gordon Mayer, Community Media Workshop • Allie, Reina, Megan & Cinnamon